Asylum girl Precious Mhango and mother freed for Christmas

A TEN-YEAR-OLD Scots asylum seeker and her mother were released from a detention centre yesterday after a high-profile campaign to have them returned home to Scotland.

• Precious Mhango is looking forward to going back to St Maria Goretti Primary in Cranhill, Glasgow

Precious Mhango and her 32-year-old mother, Florence, from Cranhill in Glasgow, had been held at Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire for over three weeks after being moved from Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire.

Fears had been raised by campaigners over Precious's mental and physical welfare as well as her loss of education during her time in detention.

Anne McLaughlin, an SNP MSP who has been campaigning for the pair to be released, said that Precious had lost 10 pounds in weight and had become anxious and withdrawn.

Last night, Ms McLaughlin said the first words spoken by Precious after being released were: "I'm really happy. I can't wait to see everyone."

Ms McLaughlin said she had then joked with Precious, asking her: "Does this mean I have to take you to the X Factor tour?" Precious, a big X Factor fan, replied "Yes, it does."

Precious also told Ms McLaughlin that she was keen to go back to her school at St Maria Goretti Primary in Cranhill on Monday morning.

"She wasn't jumping for joy. She was very quiet and trying her best to reassure her mother who was still uncertain about what was happening," Ms McLaughlin said.

She added that Precious's mother had telephoned her a number of times since being told she was being released, with her emotions ranging from joy to fear. In her first phone call, Florence said: "Oh Annie, oh Annie, they've just told me, 'Pack your bags, you're going to Glasgow'."

This was followed shortly afterwards by another telephone call in which Florence, who sounded very scared, expressed fears that she was being tricked by the UK Border Agency.

Ms McLaughlin said she reassured Florence and later received a text saying: "I'm on the train."

The pair, originally from Malawi, were due to spend last night at the YMCA in Springburn before arrangements are made to return them to their home in Cranhill, while they await the outcome of a judicial review into their case.

Neighbours and friends in Cranhill, who have been campaigning for Precious and Florence's release, were said to be "ecstatic" at the news. They had spent the weekend distributing Christmas cards around the area to publicise the case.

The family's case was taken up by First Minister Alex Salmond last month, who told MSPs that pressure was mounting on UK immigration chiefs to allow the mother and daughter to stay in the UK after lobbying from the Scottish Government.

Last week, senior doctors called for an immediate end to the "profoundly harmful" detention of children in immigration removal centres.

The Royal Colleges of Paediatrics and Child Health, GPs and psychiatrists, as well as the UK Faculty of Public Health, said detention of children and their families in the centres caused "significant harm" and should be ended without delay.

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